The benefit of TiVo, as originally communicated, was that consumers would never have to miss their favorite TV shows because this programmable device could record 140 hours of programming.  Guess what?  Everybody except those early adopters said, “I’ve already got a VCR.”  Even though VCRs are famously difficult to program, most people have resigned themselves to dealing with them. 

In reality, what was communicated was a feature.  Features are all about the product, not about the consumer.

In some ways, it was no surprise that The New York Times indicated that TiVo sales are lagging, despite both the new momentum in the digital video recorder (DVR) category and the fact that its name is synonymous with recording TV programs to a hard drive.
What are some trends in the marketplace that might have an effect on TiVo? For one, technology like this is first adopted by men and, based on reports earlier this year we know that men ages 18-34 are really not watching (network) TV. All of which precludes them needing to tape shows. So much for the prime feature espoused in the TiVo marketing.
Where TiVo’s been able to make strides in market share is when it’s bundled with set-top cable boxes or satellite converters. Let’s hear it for keeping things simple! And it’s easier to ask people to pay an additional $10 per month for their cable service than $149 for another piece of equipment PLUS $13 per month in service.
Maybe they should look to razor blades (or AOL!) for inspiration: Give away the box and charge for the service. What they need is market penetration. After they achieve better share numbers, imagine the marketing platform they’d have.
What’s the real benefit derived from TiVo? Namely, it puts people back in control of their time. Consumers know which programs they want to watch. After they’re done, they do something else. Imagine a consumer who TiVos/DVRs all of his programming for the week and then watches, sans commercials, at his or her leisure. That’s a lot of media buys and lost impressions down the drain. Bad for advertisers, yes. But good for this consumer who, conceivably, is using this concentrated TV time as a reward for completing higher priority tasks.
Let’s not forget that in marketing, we’re trying to convince consumers to part with their hard-earned dollars. Only by communicating a benefit that fills a need does this happen.
More discussion on TiVos, PVRs, and DVRs here.

Posted by Rob Fields